When you talk to someone, are you aware of their facial expression? Do you pay attention to their body language and/or try to empathize with the person to understand his or her perspective? Unfortunately, school age students and adults with autism spectrum disorder have difficulty understanding the subtle expressions and slang that we normally take for granted. For example, perspective taking calls on many of the executive functions of the brain. It requires control of our own thoughts and feeling in order to consider the perspective of others, cognitive flexibility to see a situation in different ways and the ability to consider someone else’s thinking in conjunction with our own. That’s a lot to do at once and can be challenging to make a fun activity to get students interested in learning how to take a person’s perspective. Social/pragmatic language skills may be challenging to teach and yet more children are experiencing difficulty learning and carrying over these skills into day to day life.
There are an abundance of apps that a speech language pathologist can use to help students improve their social/pragmatic language skills. I found that the “Between the Lines” app series (Level 1 & 2 for Elementary-Adolescent and Level A- Advanced for adolescents/adults) by Hamaguchi apps targets the aspect of social/pragmatic language and is a wonderful and interactive tool that students from elementary to high school would really enjoy. It focuses on the following social/pragmatic language skills: interpreta-tion of vocal tone (listening), recognition of facial expressions, interpretation of body language, perspective taking and recognition of idiomatic expressions and slang. For instance, to work on body language, a very short video clip is shown that depicts an interaction or situation between two people. For example, one video shows a girl sitting on a bench waiting for her friend and when her friend finally shows up she sits down and says, “It’s almost 8:20! Hello!!” Her body language suggest that she is frustrated. The camera closes in the actor and says, “What is she thinking?” The student looks and/or reads the choices of responses and then selects the one that matches the facial expression/body language.
Not only do the high school students that I work with love the videos, but I’ve seen them utilize what they’ve learned and carry over that skill when talking to peers and adults outside of their speech sessions. What they particularly love about the app are the variety of reward games, such as Dunk Tank, Bull’s Eye (darts) and Shoot the Basket for a welcome fun and break between answering questions. I highly recommend these apps! Have fun!
By: Michelle Effatian M.A., CCC-SLP